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IHSA formally approves pitch count limitations

  • Former Chester pitcher Austin Welge throws a pitch against Webber Township last season. The IHSA formally adopted the new high school pitching rules at its December meeting on Dec. 12. The rules take effect immediately and will be in place for the 2017 season.

    Former Chester pitcher Austin Welge throws a pitch against Webber Township last season. The IHSA formally adopted the new high school pitching rules at its December meeting on Dec. 12. The rules take effect immediately and will be in place for the 2017 season.
    Herald Tribune File Photo

  • Provided by IHSA

By Pete Spitler
Posted on 12/15/2016, 12:48 PM

The IHSA"s new pitch count rules, first unveiled in August and discussed in a town hall setting across the state in November, have been formally approved by the organization"s Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors approved the rules at their regular December meeting on Dec. 12.

"This was a collaborative effort that goes a long way toward making high school baseball in Illinois safer," said IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee member Dr. Preston Wolin in a news release announcing the formal adoption of the rules. "I want to thank the IHSA Board, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Baseball Advisory Committee, and all the people who were indispensable in this process for their efforts."

The new rules take effect immediately and will be in place starting with the 2017 season.

"I personally am not worried about the pitch counts because I"m pretty conservative with our guys anyway," said Steeleville coach John Sutton. "I probably haven"t had a kid throw 100 pitches since I"ve been a teacher at Steeleville.

"I think my personal rules will be more strict than what (the IHSA"s) are."

The IHSA"s August proposal broke the counts into five ranges - 1-30, 31-45, 46-60, 61-75 and 76-115 - with a varying number of required rest days for each one.

Pitchers are also "capped" at a specific number of pitches after a rest day. For example, if a starting pitcher were to throw 85 pitches (roughly the standard in a full, seven-inning game), the pitcher would not be able to pitch for the next three days and would be limited to a maximum of 90 pitches in his next appearance.

If a pitcher reaches the limit in the middle of an at-bat, they will be allowed to pitch to that batter until the at-bat ends. For doubleheaders, the total number of pitches a pitcher throws that day will determine the required amount of rest days.

Coaches, or whomever is designated to keep track of the pitch counts, will compare totals after every even-numbered inning and at the conclusion of the game. If the counts differ, they will split the difference.

If the difference results in a decimal, it would be rounded to the nearest number.

"I think the biggest problem is keeping track of all that," Sutton said.

The finalized rules only made one significant change from the August proposal in lowering the maximum pitch count to 105 pitches.

As for postseason play, the pitch counts guidelines are identical to the regular-season ones with the exception that there is no maximum number of pitches in a pitcher"s next appearance.

"It seems like more red tape and hoops to jump through," said Chester coach Jeremy Blechle. "Good coaches know what the limits are.

"It will be tough for small schools who don"t have five starters and four bullpen pitchers."

For relievers (46 to 60 and 61 to 75 ranges), they are not eligible to pitch for at least two days - with a cap of 60 pitches on the third day - if they fall in the first range and three days - with a cap of 75 on the fourth day - if their pitch count falls in the latter.

If a reliever pitches a fourth time in a seven-day period, their pitch count cap is 45. Starters (76-105) are also limited to 45 pitches if they pitch a third time in a seven-day period.

If pitchers are ambidextrous, the pitch counts apply to the pitcher, not the individual arm.

"It really takes away from the kid being ambidextrous," Sutton told the Herald Tribune in August. "He"s only got half the development in each arm."

The IHSA is also mandating coaches report pitch counts to the IHSA after every game via the IHSA"s website. The news release stated coaches and school personnel will be instructed on how to do so prior to the coming season.

Schools must also maintain pitching records of every game they play during the entire season in case questions arise regarding a specific game.

"It"s not going to be that big of a deal, I don"t think, but it"s just one more thing," Sutton said.

The IHSA conducted 28 town hall meetings on the proposal in November, but never came any farther south than West Frankfort.

"Kudos to the Baseball Advisory and Sports Medicine Advisory committees for working together on behalf of student safety," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in the news release. "We believe that the NFHS and its state association membership have been leaders in this area in all sports, but ultimately, the high school season encompasses a short window.

"We hope that youth and travel baseball organizations will follow our lead to help protect these pitchers and their arms."

Blechle, whose team plays Missouri competition, wondered how the IHSA"s rules applied across the Mississippi River.

"I wonder if it means anything different if you play in Missouri," he said. "It will be interesting to see how we handle that."